Welcome Rev. Portia Corbin!
Psalm 31 9:-16
Mark 14:1-15:47 or 15:1-39, (40-47)
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
First, let me say that it is an absolute JOY to be here with you.
We’ve been looking forward to this day.
YOU haven been looking forward to this day for an even LONGER time than I have,
And here we are today,
A joyous, long awaited day.
It’s the perfect day actually,
To celebrate Palm Sunday:
Remembering the joyous shouts of “Hosanna!”
As Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
And we don’t just celebrate that either.
We also celebrate today because We’re HERE.
In Church together.
Gathered, when for so long, we could not.
Knowing full well that there were no in person shouts of “Hosanna!” last year.
Today, our joy echoes some of the same feelings on that first Palm Sunday over 2000 years ago.
And so let’s talk about that first Palm Sunday.
In Jesus’ time, the people of Judah:
The Sothern Kingdom of Israel,
Had been under foreign rule for a long, long time.
Over 600 years, actually.
They were oppressed, over-taxed, defeated in wars,
and scattered to all the ends of the earth.
Through all that hardship, they developed various theories of how God would intervene to restore them to their rightful glory.
Most of these theories involved some sort of messiah.
There were lots of different ideas about what the Messiah would look like,
But all of them had some sort of connection to King David:
The greatest king of Israel’s memory:
The one who represented God’s covenant of kingship with the people.
And so the people expected a Messiah who would be a king:
A powerful king: restoring them to their former power and glory.
And against the backdrop of this expectation, Jesus enters.
By the time Jesus enters Jerusalem on that triumphant day,
He has already gained a tremendous reputation as an exceptionally wise teacher and wonder worker:
Precisely the kind of person God would send to restore Israel.
The people were excited as they started to realize that Jesus might really be the one.
A return to the Davidic line.
A sort of restoration to Israel’s old power and glory.
That’s why they cry “Hosannah! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”:
Its a direct callback to Psalm 118:
A Psalm about King David.
The people very clearly see Jesus coming to reinstitute David’s reign on earth:
To cast out the oppressors,
And to liberate Israel to its former glory.
To get back to the “good old days”
Or to the “way things used to be.”
But that’s not really what happened.
The rest of today’s liturgy: and the rest of this week:
Is going to be less than triumphant.
(Until Sunday at least)
This one that was supposed to be the King of splendor:
The one to make Israel whole, and restored, and powerful again:
Will be tried, tortured, and executed like a common criminal:
A far, far cry from the powerful ruler the people were expecting.
Things did not turn out the way people expected or wanted.
Not anywhere even close.
We know that Jesus DOES prove to be the messiah:
But it’s important to remember that he does so in a way that was totally unexpected.
He does not institute a political revolution.
He does not become the ruling king of his country, or of the world.
Instead, by conquering death,
He institutes the most radical revolution of overthrowing oppression itself.
And he inaugurates the full reign of God in the complete transformation of the whole entire cosmos.
But we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves in the story.
It’s not Easter yet.
As I said at the beginning,
The excitement that we feel at returning to in-person worship,
And the excitement we feel at beginning a new adventure together,
Is not unlike the excitement that the people of Jerusalem had on that first Palm Sunday.
We are excited to be back:
We may be thinking that this is the beginning of the restoration of how things were.
Like the people in Jerusalem that day,
We might be expecting something like a return to “normal”
To the “before COVID times”
To the “good old days, and the way things used to be.”
But just as the progression of Holy Week showed with the people’s expectations,
There was no return to the past.
There was no restoration to this golden age.
And like the people of Jerusalem,
We need to be prepared for moving forward in the new realties of our world.
We will probably experience significant frustrations and disappointments when the realities we may have envisioned or expected do not come about in the way that we hoped.
And this is the heart of the Good News:
We know that God will be faithful:
To a degree that is so much greater than we can ever expect:
So much greater than we can ever ask for or imagine.
We will likely be disappointed in our expectations,
But only for God to explode them with something so much more marvelous than we ever could have anticipated.
So the question for us:
The lesson to learn in looking at the normal and natural response for the people of Jerusalem to this upsetting of their expectation is:
Can we learn from it?
Can we allow our disappointments that will likely arise,
To open us up to what God is doing?
Rather than closing us in our expectations of what used to be?
Will we be able to set ourselves into a posture of constantly looking for the new and marvelous thing God will be doing in our midst?
Will we be ready for an unexpected Easter?
Or do we just expect it to be how it used to be?
Now I know it would be great for your new priest to know what’s going to happen:
To have all the right answers,
And all the magic words and tricks.
Yet I have NO idea what our new unexpected Easter will look like or what it will bring.
But I DO know that it’s coming.
And that it will be greater than anything we could’ve ever imagined:
If only we’re open to it:
If only we’re willing to shed our expectations,
And see that anything is possible.
Fr. Jim is providing his sermons online during the Corona virus pandemic. Enjoy!